Your Business Really Needs A Website

These days, a website is like a phone number; it’s simply expected that every business has one. Even among the Amish and other communities which typically shun technology, most businesses have come around to the idea that having a website carries great benefits. Worse, not having one may be holding your business back in ways you probably don’t even realize.

When customers and potential customers want to find basic information about your business, the first place they will turn is online. Such basic information includes:

  • Your phone number(s)
  • Business address(es)
  • Directions to your location
  • Hours
  • Information about the products and/or services you offer

Don’t make it hard for customers to do business with you. If I’m looking for a plumber and I remember seeing a truck out on the road but only remember the business name, I will look online. If that business has no website or makes me “work” to track them down but another local plumber’s website pops up right in front of me, chances are very good that I’ll simply use the one which was easiest for me to find. The same is true of just about any business I patronize.

Not having a website may be costing you in other ways too. Say I need to find your location. I could call and you or one of your employees could take time away from other productive tasks to give me directions, or I could simply look at a map on your website.

Your website is your 24 hour storefront. Even if your real business hours are more limited, if I want to look up information about your business at 2am and no one is there to pick up the phone or answer my questions, a good website will take care of my needs. If you engage in e-commerce, I may even be able to buy what I want right off your site while you are asleep.

What kind of site should you have?

At the very least, you should have your own domain name (also known as a “URL”) and a static page with the basic business information listed on the previous page.

Of course you can get progressively more fancy with multiple pages, regularly updated content, a searchable online catalogue and even a shopping cart which enables customers to buy from you online. Each of these things can be added incrementally when you come to need or want them as part of your online presence.

By integrating some of your existing systems such as inventory tracking, your employees could simply look up product availability or technician’s schedules by pulling up your web site right in your store or office. At the same time, you also give your customers the ability to do the same thing for themselves.

A word about URLs

A URL is your domain name. (The acronym stands for Universal Resource Locator, but that isn’t important.) A good domain name has several very important characteristics:

1. It is clear and easy for you to give out both verbally and in writing.

Very often you may find yourself out somewhere such as at the park or grocery store when a casual conversation turns toward business. If you do not have a business card with you, you are better off giving out just your web site URL than expecting someone else to remember a bunch of information about you or your business. The caveat to that is that a weird or complex name, especially if it has nonstandard spelling or unusual characters, may be both difficult for you to share and for others to remember.

Examples of (fictitious) bad URLs:

  • Try2win$.com
  • Gr8dealsonstuff.com
  • Cheepflytes.com

2. It is easy for others to remember.

Don’t make things hard on your customers and prospects. Give them a simple, memorable URL and make it easy for them to find your web site. This is especially true if you merely tell someone the domain name.

Even if you hand it out on your business card, it may still be garbled. Say you meet someone at a business meeting where they have collected dozens of business cards. Chances are they won’t “read” your business card. Instead, they may look over it or use it to jog their memory of their interaction with you and then look up your web site using your card merely as a reference.

3. It isn’t difficult to spell or likely to be misspelled.

Let’s say that your name is John Doe and you are the owner of John Doe’s Limousine Service. A domain name like JohnDoeLimousine.com seems like a good bet. The problem is that many people don’t know how to correctly spell the word “limousine”. Call it a testament to the sad state of education but if it hurts your business then the reason doesn’t matter. A simpler name like JohnDoeLimo.com might be better.

Alternatively, you can also purchase all the likely misspellings and have them all redirected to point to your correct URL. This is a relatively simple and inexpensive solution.

4. It fits the tone and image of your business.

Your URL doesn’t necessarily have to be the same as the name of your business, but it should be reflective of your business. A name like FunForAll.com could be great for a family fun center with activities for kids. It would be less fitting for a dentist, though GreatSmiles.com would be descriptive and memorable.

Understanding “CMS”

There are lots of different platforms on which your web site could be built but the easiest way to get a site up and running without having to hire a programmer is to use a Content Management System, or CMS for short. These are the software architecture platforms that make building and maintaining a web site user- friendly.

CMS systems go by some unusual names, many of which may not be familiar to you: Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, Tumblr, FrogCMS, Moodle, Mambo, Habari, Tango…

All share some common characteristics. They all build multi-page web sites. They all enable some form of blogging or article publishing. All have an extensive library of plugins or extensions to add new functionality that isn’t native to the base CMS. All are also available free of charge.

By and large, the CMS interface is a bit like a word processor for writing internet content. They are usually not 100% intuitive but they also aren’t hard to learn and you don’t need to know anything about internet code to make them work.

Where can you get a domain name and website?

There are literally dozens of companies where you can reserve a domain name and get web hosting. One of my favorites is HostGator.

Not only is Host Gator one of the least expensive hosting services around but they don’t require a contract commitment, won’t try to sell you a lot of extra services you don’t need and they’re environmentally friendly. (The parent company owns a windmill farm which generates 120% of the electricity used by their computer operations.)

How much will it cost?

The cost of web hosting will vary based on many factors: the number of URLs you purchase, your contract term, extra features, etc. For a single URL and basic web site, it should be less than $25 to get started and less than $10 a month to keep the site up and running.

This assumes that you do everything yourself. If you hire someone to set up your site, write content or perform other tasks for you the cost for those services will be in addition to the basic hosting.

Minority Business Enterprise Centers For Minority-Owned Businesses

The Minority Business Development Agency, also referred to as MBDA, is an agency operating within the United States Department of Commerce that’s primarily responsible for the promotion of growth and competitiveness of the country’s minority-owned businesses.

The MBDA has constituted the Minority Business Enterprise Centers (MBEC) Program wherein it aims to assist minority-owned business establishments by supplying them with electronic and one-on-one business development services for a reasonably nominal fee.

The program is designed and created to provide a vast range of services to its clients, including initial consultations, and identification and resolution of specific business issues that could somehow lead them towards the right direction, which in their case is towards the improvement and growth of their business in the marketplace.

In addition, the Minority Business Enterprise Centers will have to provide clients with advice and counseling in the fields of business assessment, strategic business consultancy, access to capital and markets, preparation of financial packages, business planning, information and management, marketing, assistance, engineering, production, identification of probable business opportunities and construction assistance.

The MBDA has designed the MBEC program to provide clients with management and technical assistance, and at the same time prohibit them from offering the clients with loans and financial aid.

The MBDA will get into cooperative agreements with eligible applicants and will provide funds ranging from $155,000 to $400,375.

Institutions or organizations will be considered qualified for run a Minority Business Enterprise Center if they are of the following:

a) Nonprofit organizations
b) For-profit firms
c) State and Local governments
d) Native American tribes
e) Educational institutions

The Catalog of Federal Assistance has outlined that the beneficiaries of the Minority Business Enterprise Centers include Americans, Native Americans, Aleuts, Asian Indians, Asian Pacific Americans, Eskimos, Hasidic Jews, Puerto Rican, and Spanish-Speaking Americans who owns small businesses.

The Department of Commerce, the primary agency funding the MBEC program, is the country’s principal agency accountable for ensuring the expansion and advancement of the economy and technological advancements through vigilance in international and domestic trade policies.

The MBEC program is very much essential to the Minority Business Development Agency and the Department of Commerce because it enables them to realize their objectives and mission as an agency and an institution.

In the fiscal years 2006 and 2007, the MBEC program was able to assist 4,254 clients and obtained a minimum of $614,269,965 in combined financings and contracts.

How to Put Your Business in Google Maps

Marketing is an important part of business. The broader audience you can reach the better. There is basically a number of ways to do so, but not all of them are as effective as you thought they would be. For both online and offline businesses, marketing is fairly a challenge and it all comes down to what is being delivered, to who it is being delivered and how it is delivered.

People have become more dependent on the internet to find what they need.This applies on almost anything : from products, services, information, people, everything and anything. This would pretty much include finding companies and what they offer. And through the internet, marketing has reached levels and market niche that seemed to be impossible years back.

Different search engines and websites have developed and are now applying different methods to better serve both entrepreneurs and customers. Different online applications have made these methods of marketing and searching a very effective way of attracting new clients and returning customers.

One of the best and free options available is Google Maps. There are more people searching for businesses online than anywhere else and through Google Maps your business will be able to reach millions of Google Maps users, quickly and for free, specifically with Local Business Center. So it’s important to make sure your business listing can be easily found on Google and Google Maps. With the use of Local Business Center, it is easy to create a great listing; all it takes is just a few minutes and it doesn’t cost a thing.

With Local Business Center, you can control your listing and speak for yourself. If you already have a website, your business probably already appears on Google, but even if it does, you should still claim your listing and check to make sure its details are accurate and thorough. Your improvements will start appearing as soon as you verify them through the Local Business Center.

By doing so you can be sure that your business is properly represented and at the same time extends to markets which used to be beyond your reach. This article will help you in broadening your marketing with the use of Google Maps.

First, go to google.com. Then key in the type of business you are under or would want to be classified in. Sample would be typing in carpet cleaning St. Marys Georgia. The Google Maps Listing for this search will come up. And you can see that there are several businesses under this type listed ranked from one to 10 for the first page. This is where your business information will appear after getting it listed in Google Maps.  Note that the Google Maps listing comes up on the first page, often as the #1 LOCAL listing in Google.  This is like getting on the first page of your local yellow pages, for free!

Getting started, you can either go to the search area of Google and key in local business center. Click on the link that appears for this. Or you could go directly to the URL space and type in http://www.google.com/localbusinesscenter.

You can sign in with your Google Account if you already have one. If you don’t have a Google Account yet, start by creating your personal Google Account. Once you have provided your email and password and logged in click on Add new listing or business. From here a form should be filled up with your basic business details as you would like them to appear in the listing.

Upon doing so the map on the left will zoom into your location as you type in your address. You can move the marker if you like if Google’s best guess isn’t quite spot-on or not exactly where you think it should be.

After filling in the location details make sure to fill in your main phone number. Google will contact you through this number for verification. If you have a website address, key it in with http:// at the beginning. Then you should write a business description that emphasizes what your business is all about making your business unique or better than your competitors. This is a means by which you could be distinguished from the others and easily be found through specific keywords. Details of what your company provides, where the service area is and where it is close to or any landmarks that they could take note of would be very could inputs for the description. Then click next. On the following step select the listing or category that you want to claim (make sure it’s the most similar to your business). When done, click on the category of your choice. You can also add another category if you think that it could be part of another.

If your business is not on the listing or doesn’t match any listings, click the Add Category button at the bottom to create a new listing. Note: In the list of close matches, if the business name on a given listing is wrong but the address is right, click the Claim Listing or Category button and Google Maps will use your preferred name. However, if the address is wrong and you can’t receive mail sent to that address, you will not be able to verify your claim. In that case, you should click Add Category at the bottom of the list to create a new listing for your business.

Next step, include your hours of operation and payment options. This information is useful for both repeat and potential customers. Then you should add more details to make your business stand out. You can also add relevant information that doesn’t fit anywhere else. Information such as delivery zone, house specialties, return policy, or anything else that you would like to share. In marketing, you would want to catch the attention of as many potential customers as you can.

You can also add an image to help your listings stand out in Google Maps search results. You can use snapshots, logos and images. If you have videos on YouTube, you can place them directly in your listing as well.

Finally, verify your listing, if possible do it by phone. If you have easy access to the phone number on your listing, choose phone verification. You can either choose to be called now or in 5 minutes. Google will call you, and once you enter a Personal Identification Number (PIN), your listing will be immediately verified. A Thank You notice will appear in the window

If you are not near the phone or have a voicemail system, you should choose postcard verification. Google will send you a card with a PIN for you to enter before mailing it back. But it will take a coupe of weeks to complete.

You’ve successfully completed your Google Maps listing.